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HomeHealth and LifestyleAlmost half of Britons on antidepressants can quit now, study finds

Almost half of Britons on antidepressants can quit now, study finds

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Nearly half of the British people on antidepressants could quit taking the drugs now with a doctor’s help and avoid the harms from their long-term use, a new study has found.

Researchers, including from the University of Southampton, found that upto 45 per cent of the people in the study discontinued antidepressants after consulting a doctor, with some able to do it after telephone or online consultation.

Patients who could access online support and counselling over the phone had lower rates of depression, fewer symptoms of withdrawal from discontinuing antidepressants, and better reported mental health.

Psychiatrists have long warned that inappropriate antidepressant treatment could cause damaging side effects in the long run, including sexual problems, body weight changes, and emotional numbness.

The use of antidepressants is skyrocketing globally, with more than 10 per cent of adults in high-income countries such as the UK now taking them for depression.

As more people seek antidepressants for depression, researchers cautioned that maintaining treatment for longer periods was only recommended for those with a high risk of relapse.

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The study, published in the journal Jama Network Open, assessed 330 adults taking antidepressants for over a year for a first episode of depression or over 2 years for recurrent depression. About 180 of them were put in the intervention arm and had access to internet and telephone counselling support while the rest were in the control arm of the study.

Participants were well enough to consider discontinuation and were at low risk of relapse, the study said.

In six months, 45 per cent of the patients in the intervention group were ready to discontinue taking their antidepressants compared to 40 per cent in the control arm. Those in the intervention group also showed less severe antidepressant withdrawal symptoms.

Counselling support reduced withdrawal symptoms and improved mental health. The differences were “small but significant,” the researchers said.

Discontinuing antidepressants appeared to be safer than thought as long as patients were monitored for relapse and their treatment could be quickly restarted, researchers said.

“Family practitioner review for possible discontinuation of antidepressants appeared safe and effective for more than 40 per cent of patients willing and well enough to discontinue,” they said.

Scientists called for setting up a national helpline to help those wanting to get off antidepressant drugs.

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